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June 2016 - Bijou Collective

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Vertical Video: No Longer A Pariah

Vertical Video: No Longer A Pariah

Vertical video is here to stay, friends, and I am about to tell you why – as well as give you a few tips on how and when to jump on the vertical video bandwagon.

Vertical Video Stigma
Since the dawn of YouTube, it’s been an unspoken rule of the tech savvy that if you’re going to shoot your own video, you’d best remember to rotate your mobile phone and shoot the video in landscape mode.

The vertical stigma was understandable considering the way most online video was played: computer and laptop screens usually mirror televisions in their landscape orientation, and many videos were embedded into websites, which traditionally also favored a horizontal orientation.

Until recently, vertical videos viewed directly on YouTube and in other players, or embedded into a website, would inevitably display horizontally with two ugly black lines to each side of the video, essentially making it harder to view the content, irritating the viewer and making the content producer look like a tech dweeb.

The New Normal
If attitudes about vertical video are changing, it’s because the use of technology has changed, and people are beginning to realize there’s a time and a place for both video orientations.

According to YouTube’s own statistics, more than half of all video is viewed on a mobile device, and the number of hours viewers spent on mobile has increased 100%, year over year. Just last month I read a study by Litmus Software who tracked statistics for over a billion emails and noted that mobile opens have now reached 56% percent. We’re also well past the tipping point where mobile internet use has eclipsed desktop browsing, according to recent reports.

Intuitive Filming Decisions
If it’s safe to assume that your video is going to be viewed on a mobile device, more likely than not, then the only relevant question you should be asking yourself is, “Which format makes more sense for the type of video I am shooting?”

Deciding whether to shoot your video in a horizontal or vertical frame should be as intuitive as taking a portrait: if there’s a reason why you need more horizontal footage in the frame, by all means, continue to shoot that way. But (for example) if you’re filming a close-up of somebody speaking – a common scenario for anyone using video in an internet marketing context – then the obvious choice should be to utilize vertical video just as you would most likely choose a portrait layout when taking a headshot.

The Technology To Back It Up
“But wait a minute,” you might be thinking, “didn’t you just say my vertical video was going to display funny and make me look like a tech dweeb?” Well, yes, until recently that was the case. But today there are several options for using your vertical video that are downright slick!

The first bit of good news is that YouTube now allows users to embed video in other websites using a vertical orientation (although, unfortunately, when the video is played within YouTube it’s still going to appear with awkward black bars to each side).

To embed vertical video in a website, first grab the regular embed code and then manually edit the dimensions:

  1. Look under the video for a right-pointing arrow and the word “Share”
  2. Click once on “Share”
  3. Click a second time on the word “Embed” which should appear on the next line down
  4. Click again in the rectangle that appears beneath the word “Embed” – this is your embed code, which you should highlight, copy, and paste into the text editor of the webpage where you want to display your video
  5. Skim through the embed code to find the dimensions, and then change the width to 540 and the height to 960 – i.e. w=540&h=960
  6. If you want to change the display size, you can change it to anything you want, but in order to avoid the “black bar syndrome” you’ll need to keep the 540×960 (9:16) ratio the same.

Unfortunately, even though Vimeo continues to outshine YouTube with its “arthouse hipster” factor, the site continues to lag behind with its technological capabilities.

Essentially the same process described above can be done for a vertical video on Vimeo, but the best you’re going to get is a square embed shape, not a fully vertical shape, meaning your video will be slightly easier to view with slightly less embarrassing black bars on either side, but Vimeo does not yet offer a true vertical solution to its users.

Emerging Platforms
Snapchat and Periscope both offer unique platforms for sharing vertical videos, but your strategy for using these platforms will need to be different than with players such as YouTube and Vimeo, as both Snapchat and Periscope offer a more ephemeral experience.

Lastly, I have high hopes for Vervid, the newest kid on the vertical video block. They may be a little hyperbolic on the point that you’ll “never turn your phone to watch video again” – firstly, yes you will, and secondly it’s not that hard – but Vervid does offer a gorgeous “in app” experience for sharing and consuming videos, with easy and intuitive uploading and editing options, and the app also allows users to embed vertical video using VervidTV – check out the Vervid blog to learn more.